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I'm presently writing a setting sourcebook for my own campaign, and I'd like it to look at least somewhat like the D&D 5e books, but I'm finding most of the obvious software programs used for writing documents like this fall well short.

What software programs the WOTC design team uses to layout the D&D 5e core rulebooks?

I'll give an example. I was playing around in Apple's Pages app. I was trying to set one page as a two column layout, but then have the next page be a 3 column layout with an image in the middle of the page. I eventually got it to work, but it involved going through a series of like 50 steps and lots of obscure settings. After flipping through the D&D core rule books, and seeing the various pages have so many different layout (one, two, three columns, images all over the pages, multiple fonts and typfaces...) I can't imagine that they'd be using something like Pages to do that kind of work.

I tried with MS Word, OpenOffice and Google Docs too, all with varying degrees of success and failure. What does WotC use?

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This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games.

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According to Mike Mearls, Wizards of the Coast does their design and layout in Adobe InDesign, which is the industry standard for any sort of graphical book publishing. InDesign is a layout program designed primarily for combining graphics and text together.

Microsoft Word, which is a word processing program, is designed primarily for manipulating text, with only minimal options for graphical layout. Pages is also a word processing program; it has a layout mode, but still isn't nearly as powerful as InDesign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm in the midst of laying out a 5e monster manual type book for an rpg publisher. I cannot imagine attempting a professional layout with anything less than InDesign. Quark Xpress could probably handle it, but I haven't used that in years (and fewer people do every year). Pages, Publisher, Word, and various open source alternatives just don't have the power. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Sep 23 '16 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis Depending on the scope, Scribus should be able to handle this kind of thing. It is desktop publishing software, not a word processor. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 11 '17 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ From my experience with Scribus, it is fine for a casual home or small business use, but I cannot conceive of a genuine publishing company relying on it. I speak from 35 years of professional print experience. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Oct 11 '17 at 22:31
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It looks like you actually have two questions here. Mike already answered that Wizards uses Adobe InDesign to do the layout of the books and is pretty heavily invested in Adobe Creative Cloud's platform as a whole. Adobe Creative Cloud's team actually interviewed Crawford and several other Wizards staff members in this video from July.

Your second question about writing a sourcebook for your own campaign though is a lot simpler (and a lot less costly), especially if you're trying to keep with the D&D look and feel. A guy named Scott Tolksdorf made an excellent tool called the Homebrewery that allows you to make homebrew content in the style of the Players Handbook using only markdown.

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